Month 21: I Don’t Believe in Potty Pauses
Before someone says they’ve experienced one, and to shut my pie hole, let me explain what I mean.
I don’t believe for a second that potty learned babies (especially full time EC babies) suddenly lose interest in not soiling themselves. It goes against biological sense. And what about the original EC communities? Those women who live in nature, on the fringes, and in EC cultures who don’t have Pampers. Do they just suddenly have toddlers that poop and pee all over them?
It is usually us…the adults, our behavior and our environment, that confounds babies and toddlers.
I don’t think a “potty pause” means “I wish to soil myself“. I think we misinterpret it because we are a diapering culture and no matter how thoughtful we think we are, we are creatures of habit and we will revolve our solutions and ideas around the familiar. Our issue is that diapers are our benchmark. It is this we go back to when we are in a crisis or impasse or minor obstacle. It is what we know. But it is not the model nature used.
And therein is the problem. Using what we’ve learned from our diapering cultures and apply that to the biological wisdom of babies. Babies are primitive creatures with primitive drives. We are the ones who misunderstand with our modern notions.
I think a “potty pause” is a request. We, in our modern minds, don’t always listen to the more refined communication attempts. Sometimes the tots need to take a more direct approach. Intelligent little beings, aren’t they? That request could be for for more independence, less fussing, more responsibility for themselves, and/or change of location or position. Likewise, a sudden bout of misses signals a need for the parent to take back more responsibility temporarily until they get Things hashed out. Things we normally would do instinctively but we get stuck in our heads; Things a mobile baby could do on their own if they lived in a place that didn’t have a titan toilet towering ten feet from the ground and hindering layers of clothing. Primitive babies were naked and could get to the nice potty hole in the ground by themselves or a special place was provided for them. If they went through a “potty pause” it was very likely simply dealt with by more hands giving more help. No labels, no worries…
We need to remember that pottying is like walking. Babies have an instinct to do both. They are processes that grow and develop as the baby does.
When a baby takes those first steps and falls and doesn’t try again for a while we don’t call it a “walking pause” and have this notion that he or she will never walk again and has lost interest in the whole locomotion business. We instead take it in stride. We brag about those first steps to whomever will listen, we help the baby to stand, hold them up, provide them with places to pull up on their own, and let them guide us. One day they need to hold your hand a lot, the next they get mad if you help too much, the next get livid if you offer without being asked, and then are back to requesting your hand so they can explore more. Of course, along comes an inventor who creates the baby walker and soon an entire generation erroneously thinks babies need them to learn how to walk properly or to encourage babies who seem to have lost interest in taking steps unassisted!
A baby becoming irritated over the potty or missing could be experimenting with holding it longer and aren’t quiet sure of the limit, “Oops, I didn’t expect that,” but also may want to do more by themselves and do not want too much assistance, “Gee Whiz, I can do it myself! Stop hovering!” Perhaps they only want help with the pants only so they can sit on the potty themselves, “Thanks. Now go away!” Some may want some privacy once they’ve been situated, “I’m good. Get out!” Or efficient walkers may want to sit on the big potty (on an insert) like they’ve seen the adults do and don’t want to use the little potty as much, “I want to use the big potty like you do!” They may be tired of being reminded too often once the have better capacity, “Don’t you trust me? Stop pestering me.” And sometimes they are having accidents due to some brain rewiring and growth restructuring — it’s not unlike being pregnant. One day you have a bladder of steel, the next you are peeing every hour, the next you sneeze and pee, and one day that little toot-toot turned out to be more than just gas…
The key difference is that no one assumes you forgot how to go to the toilet and want to soil yourself.
I never put my baby back in diapers even during a “potty pause” because she wasn’t sick and incontinent. I calmly changed her pants and waited it out. If you are going to be changing something, why are pants perceived as more difficult than diapers? Same amount of laundry, but different (and important) unspoken message. I had her be part of the clean up process in some way like getting dry clothes — not as punishment — to model that the mess needed to be set right. I would often say, “Uh oh! Pee/poo goes in the potty. Let’s clean up!” and always had her sit on the potty and ask signal “pss pss” and say “Any more? Can you try?”
These moments aren’t negatives or pauses. Pause indicates there is cessation, and that isn’t what is happening. It isn’t a thing to be feared or dreaded.
It is a time of “experimentation, autonomy, and mutual learning.”
It is a time of “experimentation, autonomy, and mutual learning.
I trust that she has the wisdom to learn how to walk and to learn her elimination limits. Inevitably, it did not last that long and there was always a reason I wasn’t understanding because I did not grow up seeing EC or practicing it. I’ve got to learn from scratch. Re-diapering would have sent the message that it was acceptable and desirable to go in your pants. And it really isn’t (unless you are sick of course and have lost control). Don’t get me wrong. I did not put on any pressure to perform, instead I changed my behavior. If I had been offering a lot, I backed off and gave the baby the reigns. If I had not been active in reminding and found that accidents were rising, I took more responsibility back. I tried my best to follow her lead. I reminded myself that she didn’t want to soil herself, that she was aware she was doing it, but was needing some adjustment time especially in a world of so many toddler unfriendly obstacles (pants, carpet, floor, huge toilet…). It’s JUST like holding her hand. I’ve got to judge if she needs me to help and how much, or if she needs me to back off. Woe be to me if I offer a hand up for some stairs and she can do it herself — I get some lip for that!
So instead of the diaper being the “go to guy”, we should think in terms of what we would do if they didn’t exist. Change your view and you change your solution options.
Articles of Note:
ETA 10/15/11 — There’s been a recent upsurge in the topic.
Allergies are another issue. When allergic to certain foods children may not be able to control their bladders efficiently. Though this is not a lack of interest, it is a medical issue preventing continence.
What about regression with a new sibling? Again, not a lack of interest in being clean but a request for attention. Clean up gets you as much one-on-one attention as that new invader’s butt is getting. As with any regressive behavior, once they get what they need it resolves.
Posted on June 26, 2011, in Parenting, Potty Training, Toddlers and tagged diaper free, ec, elimination communication, month 21, natural infant hygiene, nih, potty learning. Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.